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Vikings offensive line comes up short against Steelers

Against the New Orleans Saints, you would have thought Orlando Pace and Anthony Munoz were playing tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. But on Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Steelers reminded everyone that the revamped O-line still has a ways to go.

With Sam Bradford out of the lineup with a knee injury, the Vikings needed to protect Case Keenum in order to succes. After all, Keenum had a 37.0 quarterback rating when under pressure last year. But when given time to throw, he can occasionally move the sticks.

The Vikings’ offensive line did not give Keenum that opportunity. Keenum had 46% of his dropbacks come under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.

Minnesota’s No. 2 QB, who signed this offseason after starting 16 games over the last three years for Houston and St. Louis/Los Angeles, was consistently under pressure throughout the 26-9 loss. He was sacked two times for 21 yards, but rarely had the opportunity to find receivers down field.

Pittsburgh’s defenders, namely Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree, found themselves in Minnesota’s backfield throughout the day, including in key situations.

Down 14-0 early, the Vikings marched into Pittsburgh territory, finding themselves at the 24-yard line after an explosive pass play from Keenum to Adam Thielen. Three plays later, Kai Forbath was on for a field goal after the Steelers hurried Keenum into three poor throws.

The Steelers continued to get pressure on the Vikings’ quarterback even after losing edge rusher TJ Watt to injury in the first half. Bud Dupree had a notable sack when he flew around Mike Remmers to lay a hit on Keenum. Both Remmers and left tackle Riley Reiff finished with four hurries allowed, per PFF.

Pittsburgh not only brings far more talent to the table than New Orleans, they are a major challenge strategically. The Steelers bring a 3-4 defense, which often ends up being 2-4-5. That allows them to send linebackers and defensive backs after the quarterback from all angles. The Vikings did not handle the confusion well.

While the Vikings finished with 20 carries for 91 yards rushing – a respectable total – they did not consistently run the ball against Pittsburgh. One 25-yard run from Dalvin Cook made the runnin game look much better than it was. Two plays were taken back by Nick Easton holding calls and another was blown up by Heyward in the backfield for a four-yard loss.

If the Vikings were going to have any shot against the Steelers, they were going to have to control the ball and use clock to keep Ben Roethlisberger off the field. Instead, the Steelers ended up with 34:22 possession time.

This week was a much better measuring stick for the Vikings’ offensive line than the Saints. Clearly the starting five up front are better than they were last year, but if they are going to give the offense a chance to maximize their abundance of skill players, the O-line will have to perform better than they did against Pittsburgh.

  • David Prestin

    Vikes always seem to have trouble with 3-4 defenses. S.F. game couple yrs ago comes to mind. Too many penalties ended any chance vikes had today without Bradford.

    • Jordan Musser

      It’s not the olines fault the q.v. drops back 15 yards. If he would have stepped up in pocket it would have been different story

      • Andrew Stead

        Yes, yes, yes. How many times did Keenum take a 6.5 yard shotgun snap, and then happy feet back another 8 for no reason and right into harm’s way?

        Remmers is a poor-to-homeless man’s Loadholt, but that was expected. He’ll need help and will give up some hurries no matter the opponent.

        Easton was disappointing today. He needs to learn to let go when he starts to get beat–either he figures that out, or he needs to sit.

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    • Jake Johnson

      Yeah, and particularly Pittsburgh. Vikings are 1-4 against Steelers since ’95. Somehow, they managed to beat ’em in London 4 years ago with Cassel at quarterback.

  • Bud Viking

    Got spellcheck?

  • Thomas B

    4 hurries each is still significantly less than last season. And, Keenum is no top 10 QB. Wither way, it is another lost season.

  • david abell

    should have kept Taylor Heinicke he knew the offence we all seen what he did in preseason at lease he could scramble if no one was open. at lease he was entertaining to watch.

  • Mark

    You can’t blame the offensive line for all of it but that particular drive when they got close to scoring a touchdown and three times the line got owned by the Steelers defense was a biggie. Keenum holds the ball a half second to a second to long. I don’t know if it’s because he’s rusty or not. The defense played spotty at best for my liking. The play that seems to be killing our defense is that throw about 5-8 yards left or right of the offensive line and about two yards from the line of scrimmage. I saw this flaw of coverage since the very first preseason game. I believe every team they play will see this on game film and put it in their arsenal until they stop it. My guess is it’s a linebacker issue trying to spot that play. They are not only not spotting that play soon enough but not at all it appears. This is another thing I just can’t hold back any longer. Trae Wayne’s is not making the grade here and McKenzie Alexander is on the bubble in that I have no idea if he’ll figure it out or not. I don’t wanna give up on the kid (Trae Wayne’s) but I believe our 39 year old corner has lost a step and it’s hurting us but you can’t put Wayne’s in because he looks like Dorothy looking for ToTo when wide receivers “Wicked this Way Come” through his territory.


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